The Best 90s Psychological Horror On Streaming Is A Heartbreaking Nightmare

By Brian Myers | Published

As the 1980s gave way to a new decade, film studios began to slowly drift from the slasher movies that were saturating the genre and began developing more intense psychological horror productions. If films like Silence of the Lambs, Misery, and Seven taught us anything, it was that fans would crowd into theaters to see twisted films sans men with hatchets and chainsaws.

One entry early in the new decade was the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder, a terrifying film that claws its way into your head and keeps you wondering long after its conclusion.

A Twisting Classic That Keeps You Guessing

Jacob’s Ladder is the story of an American soldier in the Vietnam War, Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), whose unit is under attack deep in the jungle. As his unit is under attack by the Vietcong, Jacob sees many of his fellow servicemen begin to convulse or act erratically. Panicked, Jacob breaks away from the small village that his unit was attached to, only to be bayoneted and left for dead.

A Soldier Struggling To Return Home

The time forwards to 1975 where Jacob jerks awake while he’s on a subway car in Brooklyn. As he wakes up, he looks at a person sleeping near him and is horrified at what looks like a tentacle coming out of his body. Like in Vietnam, Jacob panics and flees the train as it stops, nearly getting hit by another moving train on the platform.

Jacob’s Ladder makes it seem as though its main character has a mundane, if not morose, adult life. Though he has a live-in girlfriend and a decent job, he’s still haunted by memories of the family he had before the war. It’s revealed that his youngest son, Gabe, died in a car accident before Jacob was deployed, and it’s hinted that this might be the impetus that keeps Jacob from reconnecting with his previous loved ones. 

The Twist Isn’t The End

Jacob’s Ladder takes an interesting twist when Jacob attends a party and has his palm read by a psychic. In an eerie revelation, the reader tells him that he is dead. Later that evening, he sees tentacles coming out of his girlfriend, prompting him to collapse.

He has a raging fever and is hallucinating, waking up in an alternate reality for a few moments where he is living a life with his previous wife and children, but then is thrust back into Vietnam where he is being medevaced out by helicopter as field surgeons are trying to save his

Jacob’s Ladder Keeps Getting Stranger

The plot twists continue as Jacob emerges back into his 1975 reality and begins to have discussions with old army buddies. Soon, it’s told to him that many of the surviving members of his unit are experiencing the same hallucinations. These are the side effects of a top-secret government experiment where the soldiers were injected with a serum that was supposed to make them more aggressive and stronger.

Jacob’s Ladder continues with the revelation that this project was a huge failure and led to serious side effects. But as the film moves on, you’ll question whether or not Jacob is being given accurate information or if something else sinister is at hand.

Stream For Yourself Via Video On Demand


Jacob’s Ladder is a film with so many twists, turns, and plunges in and out of “reality” that there is rarely a dull moment in the action. The movie is well scripted and acted to perfection by Robbins. It’s a unique storyline with heavy spiritual and religious imagery and thematic devices that might point some audiences in the direction of how it will end, though it will certainly shock others with its twist ending.

Jacob’s Ladder co-stars Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, Matt Craven, Jason Alexander, Ving Rhames, Lewis Black, and Macaulay Culkin.

Jacob’s Ladder is a beautiful departure from the horror slasher films of the era. You can see Jacob’s Ladder On Demand with Vudu, Google Play, AppleTV, and Prime.